Since I've had my young horse she paws the ground almost every night.

I've tried adding boredom busters such as treat balls, lick it's and wood (she likes to chew it?) but every morning without fail her stall has been pawed up into a big ball of poo/urine.

Don't get me wrong, it makes cleaning her out fairly easy but I'm concerned for her wellbeing and hoof health if she continues.

I currently deep litter her bed (6+inches) but the floor underneath is concrete. I've been thinking of putting mats down for her but I'm worried she'll dig these to pieces or remove the bedding, pee and then fall on them.

Unfortunately I'm unable to leave her outside at night as her pasture mate has sight issues and my mare will not be turned out alone.

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    That's hard. Horses will often paw as a stress reaction... There is no other horse that can go out with her? They do better not being stalled, but they do need company. Horses have very good night vision and if they are familiar with the paddock, they may not be a need to bring in the vision impaired horse, but I guess that's out of your control if it's not your horse.
    – user6796
    Feb 27, 2020 at 15:23
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    I have cameras up and I've watched through the footage and she doesn't appear stressed but more bored and looking for things to do... With that being said the lady I purchased her from left her rugless outside permanently so it's definitely possible that the confinement gets too much for her after a while. The owner of the other horse has gone off to Uni so there's a chance I'll be able to convince the "step-in" owner to at the very least trial them staying out over night. It would also make clean up much easier :') Feb 27, 2020 at 15:30
  • Horses are often stressed and we would not necessarily perceive that stress evidently. They only sleep two hours a day and being stalled is stressful for them. We have a lot of practices that are acceptable, but are not ideal for the horse and something horses have to bear. I'll get some info and write up an answer.
    – user6796
    Feb 27, 2020 at 15:36

1 Answer 1


Pawing can be a sign of boredom, stress or anger, which can be all tied in with frustration to some extent, being a repetitive behaviour.

I've managed to almost eradicate constant pawing while being hard fed in one of my horses, but her reasons for pawing, were more specific than in the case of your horse. As the behaviour was limited to feeding, I was able to set up ways to stop it.

Horses require little sleep compared to humans. They get most of this rest dozing while standing, but only require 30 minutes of deep sleep only obtained while lying down. These shorter sleep requirements mean that the horse is awake for longer and so boredom while being stalled is an issue.

It's important though to acknowledge that it's unlikely to be only boredom that is causing this behaviour. It is likely there is a level of stress also associated with the pawing, as she is kept away from other herd animals. A stall is isolated, and small. It can be stressful to be locked in such a small space for prolonged periods, despite this being an acceptable practice. The fact there's so few problems with horses being stalled is due to their submissive nature rather than the fact it is beneficial to them or that they enjoy it.

The ideal solution is to leave horses in pasture 24/7, but they do not do well alone. Being herd animals and prey animals, they rely on other horses to watch over them while they sleep.

Horses night vision is excellent, so a vision impaired horse left in a paddock over night that they are used to and in during the day should not be a problem for that horse. Of course any hazards should be removed, but this is the case for all horses.

Pawing at the concrete will damage her hooves. One way around that would be to remove the bedding and lay thick rubber matting over the concrete and then lay the bedding over that.

She is your horse and you are there and know her, you may find that leaving her in the pasture overnight alone is preferable for her health. As mentioned in your post and this answer, they like company, so at least in a stall she has horses near her.

If there is anyway to put her in a paddock that is near the stalls, that would be better. Or even let the vision impaired horse into a yard at night next to the paddock. This may not be feasible, but are just ideas.

Pawing. Horses paw—an arcing action with the foreleg that may dig a trench in soft ground—for a number of reasons. The bored or impatient horse paws when tied—he's saying that he's tired of standing around and he's ready to go! Stressed horses may paw in the trailer or at feeding time, and the behavior stops when the source of the anxiety is past.

The issue with pawing is that by preventing the actual pawing, without dealing with the underlying issue, may indeed cause other behaviours that are destructive for the horse and possibly you.

From Stereotypic Behaviors in the MSD Veterinary Manual

Pawing or digging can cause injury to the horse, damage the floor, and cause wear to the horse’s hooves. It is a normal behavior when horses on winter pasture are forced to dig for feed. When horses are confined and fed highly palatable foods, pawing can occur more frequently and more intensely than it would otherwise. Pawing can occur due to frustration, anticipation, or as a displacement behavior. The underlying cause of the pawing needs to be determined in order to successfully treat it. Specific treatments are similar to those for stall walking (see above). Changing the floors to concrete may stop pawing; however, it will not change the motivation to do so, and some horses (especially stallions) may rear up instead of pawing. Pawing should not be rewarded, which is what inadvertently happens when horses paw in anticipation of feeding. The food should be presented to the horse only when the horse is not pawing, or the horse should be brought to the food.


Stall walking or circling is a stereotypical behavior in which horses walk in circles around the stall. When released to a larger space (such as a pasture or barn), they continue to circle in a small area. Tying the horse to prevent walking will only transform the behavior into weaving (see below). Both behaviors are seen in confined horses, serve no purpose, are hard to interrupt, and are usually slower than other types of movements. Possible causes of stall walking include lack of exercise and social contact and claustrophobia (an intense fear of small spaces). Stress and anxiety appear to make the problem worse. Treatment should include increasing exercise, providing social company, allowing the horse to see other horses, and providing clean, thick bedding. Feeding frequently (more than twice daily), allowing more access to pasture, providing more open stalls, and providing better access to outside views can also help. Adding toys to the stall may help if the horse is young and active. In some cases, your veterinarian may need to prescribe medication to control the problem.

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    Thankfully she doesn't stall walk but we have an anglo arab that does in bad weather. I forgot to mention that I've seen her paw the ground to remove the bedding and then urinate straight onto the concrete frequently. The stalls we have are separated by wire 'mesh' so she can see and interact with her neighbouring horses. Other than those parts that I missed out this is a great answer! Feb 27, 2020 at 16:47
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    @SimplyRedAppaloosa it can be difficult wanting to the best thing for our horses and I don't intend to be directive. Pawing in a stall is a really difficult habit to break. I just don't want her to go onto anything more destructive. I will write a question and answer about my horse pawing while she eats. It doesn't answer this question, but it's interesting.
    – user6796
    Feb 27, 2020 at 16:50

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